Rutting season brings higher risk of deer vs. car accidents

CHP advises to look ahead while driving
By: Amber Marra,
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Deer-related accidents tend to spike in November, but the California Highway Patrol officials say there are ways to avoid collisions during this time of year.

Between July 2011 and June 2012, there were 25,000 vehicle accidents involving deer in California, according to data supplied by State Farm Insurance of California. Of those collisions, more than 18 percent occur in November.

Sara Holm, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Placer and Nevada counties, said in this area bucks are just getting into the rut, or mating season.

“These bucks are out looking for doe, and they move around quite a bit because they don’t necessarily want to be pursued,” Holm said.

That extra movement and activity contributes to the amount of deer that linger by, and often cross, roadsides.

“And there may be more activity in the dark hours, so that makes it even more dangerous,” Holm said.

David Martinez, spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol, said altering the way drivers look at the road can sometimes mean being a safer driver when the deer population is more active.

“I would say, as far as driving conditions on the freeway, it’s good practice to keep your eyes ahead of you and not so fixated on the vehicle directly in front of you,” Martinez said. “Keep scanning on the freeway ahead so you’re better prepared and have more reaction time to avoid hitting the deer.”

Martinez added that staying cognizant of areas marked with “deer crossing” signs and driving at or just below the speed limit can also cut down on deer versus car accidents.

Holm said she has been working with a “Highway 89 stewardship team” to identify areas where deer are more likely to cross. In one area north of Truckee on Highway 89, she said fencing has been put up around the road to funnel deer through an underpass to keep them out of traffic.

“It saves the deer and drivers, as well,” Holm said.

Martinez said it is also important to remember not to swerve to avoid hitting a deer in a high-speed situation, citing accidents where cars have overturned.

“Sometimes they don’t even hit the deer, so that’s not always the best option,” he said.

Three years ago, Martinez said two CHP officers hit a deer while they were headed westbound on Interstate 80. The officers swerved into the median and were both injured due to the accident.

Another officer hit a deer in the same year, but only sustained severe damage to the vehicle.

“It can happen to anyone. We’re not immune,” Martinez said.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.